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News from EPI EPI Economist Elise Gould Testifies in Support of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act

Senior EPI economist Elise Gould testified in front of the Maryland Senate Finance Committee today in support of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (SB 40). In her testimony, Gould argued that earned sick leave is a wise investment for Maryland’s employers, workers, and the general public. SB 40, which would give workers the ability to earn paid sick days, protects their ability to provide for and care for themselves and their families. While the costs are practically negligible, both businesses and the people of Maryland will gain from a more productive and healthier workforce.

Over 700,000 Maryland workers do not have access to paid sick days. This means they often go to work sick, endangering their own health and the health of their colleagues. Meanwhile, working parents are often forced to choose between staying home with a sick child and going to work. When parents cannot take off work, children are sometimes sent to school ill, diminishing their learning experience and exposing other students, teachers, and staff to infection. In her testimony, Gould noted that access to paid sick time is vastly unequal. Only one-in-five workers in the bottom 10 percent of the wage distribution have access to paid sick leave, compared with 87 percent in the top 10 percent.

“The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act is a good deal for Maryland workers, families, and businesses,” said Gould. “Everyone—including working families, businesses, and consumers—benefits when workers are able to stay home when they’re sick or when they have a sick child.”

The evidence from jurisdictions that have legislated earned paid sick days—such as San Francisco, Cali., and Connecticut—has all been positive. Moreover, Gould notes, the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act explicitly levels the playing field among all employers, raising the quality of jobs across the board. The earned paid sick time is accrued at a reasonable pace, one hour for every 30 hours worked, capped at seven full days per year for full-time workers. Part-time workers are treated accordingly at a rate commensurate with their hours worked. This provides no extra burden to employers, and removes any incentives to reduce hours of workers who rely on full-time employment to provide for themselves and their families.